The co-founder of ToTok has taken to Twitter to plead with both Google and Apple, asking that they reinstate ToTok on the App Store and Google Play.
The app was removed from the App Store and Google Play earlier this month over concerns it was being used by intelligence agencies in the United Arab Emirates to spy on its users.
Now, in a video message, Giacomo Ziani, co-founder of the app, says the move “is seriously hurting our company and putting all of our efforts at risk”.
As reported by Arabian Business, he said that ToTok were international entrepreneurs with no links to any government and that data protection and privacy were their top priority.
Alongside his Twitter appeal, Ziani gave an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times in which he said ToTok is fully compliant with its treatment of personal data. He also claims that the reason ToTok was allowed to operate in the UAE (most apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, and Skype are not available in the country) was that it was a pilot project that had met all the UAE’s regulatory requirements:
The UAE had already released multiple public statements in this regard. ToTok was allowed as a pilot project, because we were new, had no market share, and from a clean slate, we met all the UAE requirements to operate in the country (for example, our employees work and live in the country).
On the accusations that ToTok was being used to spy on its users he said:
We firmly deny this baseless accusation, and we are profoundly saddened by this complete fabrication that was thrown at us. We feel caught up in some vile conspiracy against the UAE, and even jealousy by some people, who do not wish an app like ours from this region to ever become a global player.
Ziani went on to say that ToTok hopes the suspension will be lifted “in the next few days”.
As per previous reports, ToTok does not offer end-to-end encryption on its messages, and the initial report from the New York Times noted that the firm behind ToTok, Breej Holding, is likely a front company affiliated with Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence firm DarkMatter.
Investigations by both The New York Times and American intelligence services seem to have unanimously concluded that the app is indeed being used by the UAE to spy on its users. One digital security expert went as far as to suggest that senior Emirati officials told him that ToTok had been developed in order to track its users. With mounting evidence contrary to Ziani and ToTok’s claims, it seems likely his plea will fall on deaf ears.